2023 Virginia Casino Watch: Here’s What To Expect In The New Year

Written By Russ Mitchell on January 18, 2023 - Last Updated on August 1, 2023
2023 Virginia casino policy

From new sportsbooks to new casinos, expect to see plenty of changes for the 2023 Virginia casino and gaming industry.

Casino betting is only six months old, so look for members of the Virginia General Assembly to refine betting rules while collecting tax dollars for the state.

The year begins with the arrival of lawmakers and launch of Virginia’s first full-scale casino in Portsmouth. It may end with a public casino vote in Petersburg, Richmond … or both.

Here are just a few of the key dates that will shape 2023 Virginia casino policy.

Now to Feb. 25 — Virginia General Assembly convenes

The window to pre-file bills for consideration ended at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11. We know Virginia casino sites and problem gambling treatment will come up. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Feb. 25.

Richmond vs. Petersburg — the 2023 Virginia casino tug of war

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney started the year with an open letter to eight lawmakers as he lobbied for a Richmond casino.

Four sessions ago — in March of 2019 — the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to create five host casino cities: Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond.

The Virginia gaming industry went 4-for-4 in 2020, but Richmond waited a year and partnered with media conglomerate Urban One on a $565 million One Resort + Casino.

Plans called for a south Richmond site near the Philip Morris manufacturing center and I-95, but voters turned down the proposal in 2021.

Richmond and Urban One wanted to try again in the 2022 General Election cycle, but Sen. Joe Morrissey blocked a 2022 Richmond casino vote through an amendment to the state budget.

Fast forward to the current legislative session and shift the focus about 25 miles down the road. Petersburg is countering One Resort + Casino plans with a massive $1.4 billion Cordish Companies project. Live! Casino & Hotel Virginia would anchor the 4 million-square-foot project at the intersection of Wagner Road and I-95 including:

  • More than 670,000 square feet of gaming, hotel, dining and entertainment space
  • 1,300 residential units
  • 500 hotel rooms
  • 600,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space.

Morrissey pre-filed SB 780 (while Del. Kim Taylor pre-filed HB 1373) to add Petersburg to the list of eligible casino cities.

If SB 780/HB 1373 reaches Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk it would also block a second Richmond bid until Petersburg takes its first shot at landing a casino in the region.

Gaming terminals and a big lottery change

Some Virginia lawmakers want a closer watch over video gaming terminals — or VGTs — in the state. VGTs mimic slot machines and usually anchor the corners of convenience stores and truck stops. SB 462 would regulate “the manufacture, distribution, operation, servicing, hosting, and playing of” the machines.

SB 462 also imposes a 34% tax on VGT profits and steers the money toward the state school construction fund.

Finally, the bill expands the Virginia Lottery Board — and changes its name to the Virginia Lottery and Gaming Oversight Board — to provide oversight. Likewise, the Virginia Lottery would become the Virginia Lottery and Gaming Department.

Problem gambling

Since gaming is growing in Virginia, some guardrails are making their way through the Virginia General Assembly.

Virginia state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) and Del. Paul Krizek (D-Mount Vernon) introduced partnering bills HB1465 and SB 836. It would create a Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee.

“As Virginia moves forward with the expansion of gaming, it’s important that we understand the ills that come with it,” Reeves said in a Dec. 27 announcement. He continued:

“We must focus our attention on Virginians who struggle with gambling addiction. Delegate Krizek and myself are excited to announce our bipartisan effort to ensure that our Commonwealth’s gaming regulations properly reflect the much-needed funds for problem identification, gambling addiction education, and treatment.”

Horse racing tax

SB 367 takes a closer look at Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines. It sets aside one penny from every $10 wagered to go toward the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Fund. Currently, the general fund gets 75 cents out of every $10 from HHR machines. The amount would change to 0.74% under SB 367.

Sportsbook taxes

Virginia could change the way it taxes VA sports betting bonuses. Right now, sportsbooks can deduct the incentives only for the first year. Under HB 2202, sportsbooks still get that first-year break. Then sportsbooks can deduct no more than:

  • 2.5% of the total amount of all sports betting wagers placed between July 1, 2023, and July 1, 2024 each month
  • 2.25% between July 1, 2024, and July 1, 2025
  • 2% percent between July 1, 2025, and July 1, 2026
  • and no more than 1.75% each month on and after July 1, 2026.

Gambling as an addiction

Virginia already has a Substance Abuse Services Council, but gambling isn’t a “substance” so lawmakers want a name change under SB 824. The bill renames the Substance Abuse Services Council as the Virginia Addiction Recovery Council. It also increases council membership from 29 to 32 the membership of the Council by adding two members representing the problem gambling recovery community and one member representing the Opioid Task Force.

SJ 232 designates March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month going forward.

Gaming oversight

We mentioned efforts to put VGTs under the Virginia Lottery’s scope of review.

Depending on the bets you make in Virginia, one of three state agencies may be in charge of Virginia gaming rules and regulations.

  • The Virginia Racing Commission oversees live horse racing. That includes electronic historical horse racing (HHR) games.
  • Charitable gaming falls under the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and
  • The Virginia Lottery handles other areas. The list includes VA sports betting and casino gaming. That’s in addition to retail and online lottery games, of course.

Lawmakers have a report, which encourages them to study the feasibility of having all games under the lottery’s guidance. SJ study bills 24 and 25 would also weed out any conflicts of interest on the oversight committee.

Jan. 23 — Virginia’s first full-scale casino opens

Hard Rock’s temporary casino in Bristol has been open since July. We now know a date — and a time — for the Rivers Portsmouth Casino opening.

Once customers place bets beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23, Rivers Portsmouth will become the first full-service permanent casino in Virginia.

The casino operators in Virginia promise a “24/7/365” schedule in Portsmouth.

Developers will go from groundbreaking to first bets in a span of only 13 months. The $340 million Hampton Roads casino will be part of an entertainment district along Victory Blvd. The site is just south of I-264.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth won’t add the words “hotel” or “resort” to its name anytime soon. Lodging may be a key addition down the road. Rivers Casino Portsmouth will have an event center, a 25,000-square-foot grand hall and a reception area.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth will feature:

  • 57 table games
  • 1,448 slot machines
  • 24 poker tables in a dedicated poker room and
  • Topgolf Swing Suites, which overlook the sportsbook area at the casino
  • 10 new restaurants and bars at Rivers Casino Portsmouth.

Fans can place sports bets from anywhere in Virginia. But visitors who like a fun place to bet on — then watch a — game are in luck. BetRivers Sportsbook has a spot at the casino. It will feature “the largest high-def screens in Hampton Roads,” sportswriter windows plus 27 self-serve betting kiosks.

May 15 to May 30 — Annual sportsbook permit application window opens

The Virginia Lottery has an annual sports betting permit application period from May 15-30. Applications for sports betting permits are only accepted during this time frame if permits are available.

We know that Hillside (Virginia) LLC would like to activate bet365 VA. The Virginia Lottery approved a temporary license for the company on Aug. 15.

Betfred Sportsbook could set a course to Virginia through a partnership with the state’s USL Championship franchise. The sports betting company announced its partnership with Loudoun United FC.

Virginia has 13 live sportsbooks at the moment. Technically, the state caps its sportsbook count “at no more than 12 permits,” according to Virginia code. A number of VA sports betting apps are also available.

Virginia has exceptions that allow the state to max out at 19 sportsbooks, however.

Summer 2023 — Colonial Downs HHR terminals in Emporia

Colonial Downs plans to open a facility in Emporia with 150 HHR terminals in the summer of 2023. Then, look for a second 1,200-HHR facility in Dumfries by the beginning of 2024.

The new Dumfries HHR location is being marketed as a gaming resort. It will include a luxury hotel, eight bars and restaurants, a 1,500-person entertainment venue, a meeting and event space and a green space.

State law allows for up to 5,000 HHR terminals to operate in the state. Once the new Emporia and Dumfries locations open, the state will have almost 4,000 terminals.

Nov. 7 — Election Day for any casino referendums

One of the last key dates of the year circles back to the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond.

As we mentioned, cities have to show support for gambling through a casino vote. Whether it’s Petersburg, Richmond or both cities, voters should mark Nov. 7 on their calendars.


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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell covered news and sports in Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most decorated community newspapers in the state. He joined PlayIA as a lead writer and managing editor in 2021. He anxious to explore the growing Virginia gaming industry.

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